Select Page

Fake news has been one of the most pressing challenges of modern-day consumers’ lives, across all geographies and categories. The Drum speaks to Australian Associated Press and Facebook about a major campaign to help Australians spot fake news.

Brands and publishers are trying to make sense of a tsunami of information (and misinformation) to make consumers’ lives a bit easier. Australian Associated Press (AAP), known as Australia’s only independent national news agency for over 85 years, has launched its maiden brand campaign to boost media literacy among Australian adults and to help them avoid misinformation.

The campaign, supported by Facebook, has been launched to coincide with Unesco’s global media and information literacy week (October 24-31).

Peter Bodkin, AAP FactCheck editor, says: “The campaign is not designed to transform people into professional fact-checkers, but we do hope they will try to ‘Check the Facts’ by asking some simple questions.”

Anyone can be part of the solution to the misinformation problem if they can make good decisions about what information to trust and share, he adds.  

Fake news – a big deal in Australia

While many adults in Australia (68%), as per a study, rated knowing how to recognize and prevent the flow of misinformation as important, only 39% of the respondents were confident they could recognize misinformation. The fact is that there are very few media literacy education resources available to help Australian adults sift through, recognize and avoid misinformation.

Interestingly, with the federal election looming in Australia, misinformation can have real-world consequences, hence the timing of this campaign, says Bodkin. With recent research showing Australian adults have low confidence in their ability to identify misinformation, AAP wanted to offer some practical tips to support them, he adds, so the ‘Check the Facts’ campaign was born.

“This campaign simplifies and shares some of the knowledge and skills we have acquired as a way to help Australians who may be struggling to decide what information they can trust,” says Bodkin.

AAP has been around for more than 85 years, and AAP FactCheck has been actively addressing misinformation since 2019. 

AAP ‘Check the Facts’ campaign 

Covid-19 film

Beer film

Winged spider film

How is AAP helping Aussies identify fake news? 

The campaign provides tips for assessing information and promotes AAP FactCheck’s website, where qualified journalists publish the results of their investigations into various claims, including the three real-world examples of misinformation featured in the campaign in a fun-laden and quirky way. 

Bodkin says: “At its most basic, the framework of our fact-checking process relies on the questions we share in our campaign: who made the claim? What’s the evidence? And what do trusted sources say? The very act of pausing and considering those questions can help build the critical thinking skills needed to recognize and avoid misinformation.”

Getting Facebook onboard to help curb misinformation  

This campaign is part of Facebook’s initiative to look at partnerships, products and programs to support the provision of authoritative, credible information on its platforms.

“It builds on the measures we’re taking to help to tackle misinformation in Australia,” says Josh Machin, head of public policy for Facebook in Australia. The campaign aims to provide people with new skills to make informed decisions on what to read, trust and share, he adds. 

Facebook has been working on its policies to remove harmful misinformation, and launched new products to connect people to credible health information at its Covid-19 Information Centre. As per the data, more than 6.2 million Australians accessed the Information Centre last year, and it also partnered with the Australian government to amplify information on the vaccine rollout. 

Making humor work for a serious issue

The campaign talks about how to debunk false claims using examples of misinformation about beer, Covid-19 vaccines and winged spiders. About making humor the underlying theme for a serious topic such as fake news, Bodkin says: “Australians have a great sense of humor and generally people respond better to the serious message if it is delivered with a light touch.” The campaign has been conceptualized by AAP’s strategy and creative partner Momentum.

Sharing the broad creative platform, executive creative director of Momentum Matt Batten says: “We reverse-briefed the AAP team to provide us with a selection of misinformative memes that have had high traction and would be topical, provocative and culturally relevant to Aussies.”

Therefore the three themes arrived: Covid-19, the most prominent event to have hit current consumers and also one with no shortage of misinformation concerning the virus and the vaccines; the winged spider, because Australia is well known to have a variety of frightening species – and the last thing needed is a flying spider, making this a provocative topic; and finally, the meme regarding beer taps into Aussie culture, shares Batten.